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Research article2013Peer reviewed

Combination of multiple biological quality elements into waterbody assessment of surface waters

Caroni, Rossana; van de Bund, Wouter; Clarke, R.T.; Johnson, Richard


The Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires EU Member States to classify the ecological status of surface waters by using multiple biological quality elements (BQEs). According to the WFD Classification Guidance, a 'one-out-all-out' (OOAO) rule should be applied when integrating multiple BQEs into an overall biological status of a waterbody, i.e. classification is determined by the lowest status BQE. Using both simulated and monitoring datasets, we analyzed the effects of different combination rules in classification outcome and classification reliability. The OOAO represented the strictest combination rule in terms of increased probabilities of waterbodies being in moderate or worse status in comparison to other rules. The OOAO approach gave acceptable results when different BQEs were complementary, showing the effects of different pressures, and when level of uncertainty in the metrics used in the assessment was not high. Increasing the number of BQEs used in the assessment affected the classification outcome when using the OOAO approach; this was especially problematic if all BQEs address the same pressure. Our study showed that grouping of metrics and metrics uncertainty has a large influence on classification outcomes and that this should be carefully considered to ensure that final classification adequately reflects ecological status.


Water Framework Directive; Ecological status; Bioassessment; BQE; Simulation; Classification; Uncertainty

Published in

2013, Volume: 704, number: 1, pages: 437-451
Publisher: SPRINGER

    Associated SLU-program

    Lakes and watercourses

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG6 Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

    UKÄ Subject classification


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